Indianz.Com > News > ‘Truly a sad day’: Tribes take action to ensure safety at Indian school
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‘Truly a sad day’
Investigation finds sexual harassment, bullying and drug use at St. Stephens Indian School
Monday, May 9, 2022

Tribal leaders in Wyoming have ousted the entire school administration and school board on their reservation after an investigation corroborated accounts of sexual harassment, bullying and drug use at the St. Stephens Indian School.

Leaders of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe requested the investigation after hearing about the toxic work environment at St. Stephens. The facility, which teaches grades kindergarten through 12th, is located on the Wind River Reservation and is part of the Bureau of Indian Education system.

The investigation, which was carried out by the BIE after being authorized by the tribes, implicates the top administrators at the St. Stephens. Most of the damning evidence emerged against Frank No Runner, who had been serving as superintendent at St. Stephens since July 2015.

According to a administrative investigation released on Monday, No Runner subjected employees, potential hires and even students to sexual harassment. On one occasion where a witness was present, he asked a student who had been hired as a babysitter to “have sex with him for money,” the report states.

“Throughout the investigation multiple witnesses testified they had heard rumors of No Runner soliciting underage girls for nude photographs and sex,” the BIE document reads.

Other top administrators at St. Stephens also engaged in harassing behaviors, according to the 30-page report. The BIE investigation found that Greg Juneau, who served as principal of the K-8 portion of the school, repeatedly attempted to show an employee “nude pictures of girls,” asked her to come to his house at “inappropriate times during the night” and showed up intoxicated to the new workplace of the witness after she said she was forced to leave the school due to the toxic environment.

“Her place of employment was a bar, and the bartender threw him out,” the report reads. “He had to be asked by the bartender to leave because of his inappropriate behavior.”

Matthew Mortimore, who was the high school principal at St. Stephens, was named in the investigation as well. According to the report, he joined No Runner and Juneau at a party where a former student became intoxicated and was encouraged to dance “topless.” The party occurred at No Runner’s house, where alcohol was present and when the former student was underage, the BIE stated.

“Although there is no evidence of anyone having sex at this party, the fact the Superintendent of the school, the principals of the school and other adults in leadership roles found it acceptable to have a student at this party, allowed her to dance on a table topless and consume alcohol, is unacceptable,” the report reads.

Bureau of Indian Education Administrative Investigation: St. Stephens Indian School – April 2022

As a result of the investigation, the Wind River Inter-Tribal Council, which consists of the joint leadership of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe, unanimously voted to terminate No Runner, Juneau, Mortimer and Pattee Bement, another administrator who is married to No Runner, from employment. Also ousted was the entire school board.

“This is truly a sad day, and I regret that we as tribal leaders had no choice but to ensure a safe and orderly learning environment at St. Stephens Indian School by removing these individuals from the roles in which they had been entrusted,” said Chairman Jordan Dresser of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, whose business council released the report on Monday.

By removing the five-member school board, the Wind River tribes are returning oversight of the school to the BIE, a federal agency. Though the action relinquishes a bit of sovereign control on the reservation, Dresser said it was necessary in order to keep students safe.

“Our children deserve the best possible education, but that hardly seems possible with the kind of misconduct discussed in this report by the Bureau of Indian Education,” added Dresser. “St. Stephens will now move forward under BIE oversight to ensure our children’s learning and wellbeing is put first.”

“The BIE report speaks for itself,” said Chairman John St. Clair of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, who warned of further actions that could be taken against the former administrators.

“It’s also important to note that it’s an administrative investigation only and does not address criminal conduct,” St. Clair continued. “That will be considered by the agencies that have jurisdiction. Our action is a precautionary effort aimed at protecting our children and community.”

According to the report, the BIE investigation took place at the Wind River Casino between March 29 and April 1. Over just four days, federal investigators were able to secure testimonies, statements and documents from nearly two dozen witnesses, including concerned parents of current students at St. Stephens.

According to the report, No Runner, who previously served as superintendent of a BIE school in neighboring Montana, admitted having a relationship with a former student at St. Stephens. Though the former student, whose age was not disclosed but was said to be “of age,” did not corroborate the relationship, Bement did — with evidence showing that she contacted the former student on social media and made comments of a sexual and harassing nature, the investigation found.

Bement’s actions caused the former student to have a restraining order taken out against her, the report states.

“In March 2021, Witness #4 did take out a restraining order against Bement for harassing her at her place of employment,” the investigators wrote.

At the time of the restraining order, Bement and No Runner were in a relationship but had not yet been married, according to the BIE investigation. The couple has children and the family was living rent free in a house on the St. Stephens campus.

The report doesn’t state when the pair became married. But the relationship led to additional benefits for the couple — with No Runner as superintendent, Bement was given a better job as supervisor of the food program at St. Stephens, along with a higher salary.

“Pattee Bement was reassigned to the Food Services Supervisor position, without the job being competed and with an increase in pay,” the BIE investigation reads. “There is no evidence that Pattee Bement has ever held any position that would qualify her as a Food Services Supervisor.”

According to the report, Bement had been a culture, arts and food teacher at St. Stephens. But she went “missing so many days from school that students were complaining,” the report states.

Posted by St. Stephens Indian School on Thursday, July 2, 2015
“To Walk with Dignity, Knowledge, and Wisdom” is the mission of the St. Stephens Indian School on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

When a witness raised concerns about the absences, No Runner stepped in and said: “You are not going to fire my wife,” the report recounts. He then transferred Bement to her current position, which came with a substantial increase in pay, according to the BIE.

“As such, he misused his position as the school superintendent, because he noncompetitively reassigned his wife, Pattee Bement, into a position that has a salary increase of $15,000.00,” the report states.

In addition to consuming alcohol at No Runner’s home on school premises, No Runner and Juneau admitted to marijuana use — though both said they did not smoke while at work. “St. Stephens Indian School does not and will not tolerate the use or possession of alcohol and/or illegal drugs by its employees on school premises or while in attendance at a school related function,” the drug-free workplace policy states.

But the investigation found that No Runner used marijuana when he attended a school-related training session. A former employee said the superintendent purchased marijuana while they were attending the training session and smoked it in his vehicle with all the windows rolled up “because he didn’t want people outside to smell.”

“She further stated she was really upset because she felt as if she was forced to inhale the second-hand marijuana smoke,” the report says of this former employee, who was the one who left St. Stephens because of the toxic work environment.

According to the investigation, Bement was present on the trip and smoked marijuana as well. Additionally, No Runner admitted he consumed alcohol while driving, all with the employee in the vehicle.

“The investigators concluded Frank No Runner is engaging and has engaged in the consumption of alcohol on school premises or at school related functions, trainings, etc. and potentially endangered the safety of a SSIS employee while on travel,” the report reads.

Posted by St. Stephens Indian Mission, Inc. on Thursday, December 10, 2015
The St. Stephens Indian Mission operated the St. Stephens Indian School up until 1975.

The history of the St. Stephens Indian School goes back more than 130 years. It was founded as a religious-run boarding school in 1884 and continued to house students on campus until 1939, when it continued as a day school as part of the St. Stephens Indian Mission.

Following passage of the Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act in 1975, the school came under local control on the Wind River Reservation. The St. Stephens Indian School Educational Association, Inc. began operating the facility under a self-determination contract in 1975.

According to a March 2021 audit from the Office of Inspector General at the Department of the Interior, St. Stephens received a total of $12.5 million over three years through self-determination agreements with the BIE. The time period of the audit coincided with No Runner’s arrival as superintendent of the institution. His rent-free living arrangement was raised as an issue.

“We found that in 2015 St. Stephens started using BIE funds to provide employer housing to recruit and retain key positions — specifically, for the superintendent and for the principals of the elementary and high schools — without the required approval,” the OIG report reads.

The rent-free arrangement is unusual, and OIG recommended that the BIE, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs, provide guidance on the matter. Despite the recommendation, the April 2022 BIE investigation notes that No Runner was continuing to live on campus without paying rent.

That could be because the BIE did not fully agree with the recommendation to help St. Stephens “implement a compliant employer-provided housing policy,” according to a memo signed by BIE Director Tony Dearman that was included in the OIG audit.

The house where he lived is one of three residences that are leased from the St. Stephens Indian Mission, according to the OIG audit. A four-stall garage is also leased from the church, the audit states.

Tony Dearman
Tony Dearman, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, serves as director of the Bureau of Indian Education. Photo: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

The OIG audit also cited an instance in which the St. Stephens board agreed to pay $3,880 to repair a board member’s personal vehicle. This issue was also examined as part of the BIE investigation, with No Runner saying he did not dispute the payment because he believed his job was at risk if he went against it.

No Runner further told BIE investigators that because he was “new to the BIE education system, he hadn’t heard of OIG or other avenues to be able to report an inappropriate expenditure.” However, the BIE investigation points out that the contested payment was made in 2017 — when No Runner was already in his third year as superintendent at St. Stephens, and after he had served as a superintendent at another school that receives BIE funds.

“By not reporting this inappropriate expenditure of school funds, No Runner allowed himself to become compromised in his position as Superintendent, as well as complicit in allowing school funds to used inappropriately,” the BIE report reads.

According to the report, the board member — who was not identified — has since repaid only $50 of the $3,880 that had been authorized for the vehicle repairs. As with the housing policy issue, however, the BIE appears to have lapsed on its promise to “resolve the $3,830 in questioned costs.”

In his memo to the OIG, Dearman identified himself as the official responsible for resolving the situation, along with “Target Date: December 31, 2021” to complete the task.

Relevant Documents
Bureau of Indian Education Administrative Investigation: St. Stephens Indian School (April 2022)
The St. Stephens Indian School Educational Association, Inc., Needs To Improve Financial Accountability for Federal Funds (March 2021)